Breeding Horses: How to Get Better Pregnancy Rates With Cooled Semen

Researchers identified three ways to help improve pregnancy and foaling rates: breeding mares multiple times in a season, inseminating close to ovulation, and choosing a stallion with progressively motile sperm.
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breeding horses
Researchers identified three ways to help improve pregnancy and foaling rates: breeding mares multiple times in a season, inseminating close to ovulation, and choosing a stallion with progressively motile sperm. | Photo: The Horse Staff
Artificial insemination (AI) with cooled shipped semen is one of the most common methods for breeding in most countries. But studies have shown that this technique can result in lower pregnancy and foaling rates than live cover or AI with fresh semen.

“Understanding the most important factors that lead to lowered fertility is of significant interest,” said Katila Terttu, DVM, MS, PhD, professor emerita of animal reproduction at the University of Helsinki, in Finland.

In a study of 1,098 mares bred with chilled shipped semen from 90 stallions, she and colleagues identified three factors that can help mare owners decide when to order semen and inseminate.

1. Give the mare ample opportunities to become pregnant.

“The mare needs to get enough opportunities to be bred,” Terttu said. “That’s at least three cycles during the breeding season. Start to breed early, with pregnancy checks around Day 16-17 so that no heats are missed if the mare did not conceive

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Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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